Peace there for us all – if we make time to find it

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News -

I can re­mem­ber the days be­fore Sun­day trad­ing came into force. No thoughts about shop­ping, just a time to en­joy fam­ily with­out the need to spend money.

Fast for­ward to 2018 when we can shop at any­time, any­where. Throw Christ­mas into the mix and those days of rest are no more. And as the pres­sure to shop ramps up, I’m be­gin­ning to think Sun­day trad­ing is not such a great idea.

It en­cour­ages ma­te­ri­al­ism and takes away mind­ful­ness – the op­por­tu­nity to see an­other part of our world that doesn’t in­volve money. I was in the States a year ago. Some of the shops stayed open 24/7. There was no es­cap­ing the huge con­sumer greed, egged on by re­tail­ers and it was sick­en­ing.

I write this in the mid­dle of Black Fri­day which, it seems, has turned into Black Week. Peo­ple rush out madly to buy things they think they need of­ten from sup­ply chains that are less than ideal. It is cap­i­tal­ism at its worst.

Just as I’m vow­ing not to get caught up in the tsunami of first world “must have’s” I get in­un­dated with a for­est of brochures through the post tempt­ing me to buy stuff that will be in a char­ity shop or dust­bin within a month.

Do I re­ally need a mul­ti­tool comb shaped like a hedge­hog that will be a bot­tle opener, screw driver, phone stand wrench, money clip and chip clip to se­cure bags? Or a tool kit in pink? Or an at­tach­ment on my phone that will guar­an­tee good self­ies with my cat? The list goes on and again makes me feel nau­seous.

The pres­sure to spend money, es­pe­cially round Christ­mas is grim and I want to es­cape to a re­mote cot­tage in the He­brides with Hubs, the kids and a box of food. But it’s not to be. And to my dis­dain, I find my­self buy­ing from Ama­zon be­cause I can’t bear the thought of be­ing swept up in the may­hem of shop­ping and queu­ing.

Then I’m over­come with guilt about not sup­port­ing the high street and, hold­ing my nose, dive in and risk be­ing tram­pled by peo­ple who will be con­tribut­ing to next year’s land­fill with their “es­sen­tial” buys.

It’s not the way to shop. Gifts should be bought with love and thoughts, not with duty and this year I’m re­ally try­ing to turn that round. I’m fast be­com­ing a con­vert of “No Spend” Fri­day where for 24 hours you detox from buy­ing stuff.

The creep­ing com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion doesn’t sit well with me. It’s sim­ply not pos­si­ble to read about starv­ing peo­ple in war-torn be­grudg­ingly gave way to dawn. The train sped serenely to­wards the coast with low sun high­light­ing pock­ets of mist and play­ing through trees, cast­ing long shad­ows across green Devon hills. A swift change at St David’s, for the crowded small train up to Ex­eter Cen­tral, com­pletes the com­mute.

There fol­lows a pleas­ant, brisk walk along Queen Street. A bit fur­ther along and, round­ing a cor­ner, is our com­pany’s news­pa­per of­fice. En­ter­ing the door, as­cend­ing to the of­fice on the first floor, and the daily bom­bard­ment of com­puter train­ing be­gins.

But all good things... coun­tries, or walk past home­less peo­ple on a chill De­cem­ber night and then be ut­terly prof­li­gate, buy­ing some­thing that will pro­vide in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion and be for­got­ten in a year.

Even the buy­ing of the goods can be a farce. The con­sumer pub­li­ca­tion “Which” is scathing about re­views on line. Search­ing out and be­liev­ing a per­fect stranger’s val­i­da­tion of an item is now the norm. Their in­ves­ti­ga­tion team dis­cov­ered that 97% use cus­tomer re­views be­fore buy­ing some­thing. And 37% are dis­ap­pointed with items that had ex­cel­lent on­line re­views.

The prac­tice of com­pa­nies pay­ing for pos­i­tive re­views is wide­spread and 87,000 Face­book users are in groups cre­ated to write fake re­views in ex­change for money. So buy­ing Christ­mas presents can be fraught with dis­hon­esty.

Buy­ing char­ity Christ­mas cards is great but wouldn’t it be even bet­ter if the Post Of­fice do­nated half the rev­enue for a set num­ber of stamps per per­son and gave the funds to char­ity? I’m sure more peo­ple would send cards know­ing they were do­ing some good.

If I’m sound­ing Bah Hum­bug about the Sea­son of Good­will, I guess it’s true. Go­ing off to the He­brides is an un­likely sce­nario for me, but there are other ways that can bring back the joy of Christ­mas. Help­ing out with the Sal­va­tion Army or other char­i­ties that have to deal with un­prece­dented num­bers of home­less peo­ple at Christ­mas is just one way to give – and it doesn’t cost a penny. Or buy a spe­cific item for a cause or a per­son who would re­ally ben­e­fit. Some­thing tan­gi­ble that will not be sub­ject to grey ar­eas of ad­min costs or mid­dle men.

My el­dest son and his wife are do­ing just this. They don’t want presents. In­stead they want the money to buy some equip­ment to go to­wards Cann Bridge Spe­cial School in Ply­mouth. Cann Bridge looks af­ter young dis­abled chil­dren and work tire­lessly to pro­vide them with spe­cial­ist equip­ment. It re­lies heav­ily on vol­un­tary dona­tions to help the pupils.

I’m think­ing of ask­ing for the same gift be­cause I re­ally don’t need a pink tool kit or an­other jumper and I’m sure the cat won’t care two hoots about miss­ing out on a selfie. The time I’m not chas­ing round shops can be used more mean­ing­fully – giv­ing me space to re­flect per­haps on the real mean­ing of Christ­mas and the sense of Peace that is there for us all – if only we make time to find it.

Buy­ing char­ity Christ­mas cards is great but wouldn’t it be even bet­ter if the Post Of­fice do­nated half the rev­enue for a set num­ber of stamps per per­son to char­ity? I’m sure more peo­ple would send cards know­ing they were do­ing some good

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